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marisol valles – a young hope for mexico

From first impressions Marisol Valles appears to be like any other young Mexican woman.

The criminology student is pictured wearing a pink patterned shirt and a pair of rectangular glasses that seem to add harshness to her otherwise approachable demeanor.  That harshness may come in handy, though, as 20 year old Valles was recently appointed the chief of police of the Mexican town Praxedis G. Guerrero.  Lying almost directly on the Mexico/USA border, the town is said to be one of the most violent in the state of Chihuahua.

Mexico has become entangled in a battle between the federal government, the powerful drug cartels and international governments (mostly the US) over drug production and trafficking. The governments want to stop the violence, stop the drug trafficking and stop the general decline of the country. The drug cartels? They want more power, more money and an increase in drug production and trafficking.

Since before Valles was born Mexican drug cartels have been significant players in the narco-trafficking industry because the country sits neatly between the world’s major producer of cocaine (Colombia) and the biggest market for it (the USA). Over the past decades drugs such as marijuana and methamphetamine have significantly increased in popularity and have added fuel to the fire of in-country violence and corruption.  In 2006 the newly elected president, Felipe Calderon, declared a ‘war on drugs’ and in the intervening years the drug cartels have put up a major fight. They still control significant areas of the country and have openly publicised their ‘authority’ (typically via assassinations) over the media, the police and the government.

The power of the cartels is so great that they have utilised unprecedented technologies to get the drugs to their various destinations. In 2008, the Mexican Navy located an unknown submarine. It was in fact a ‘narco-sub’ owned by the cartels and was carrying 5.8 tonnes of cocaine!

This is the high stakes world that Marisol Valles is stepping into as a police chief, and as she is also a young mother, it begs the question…why risk it? In an interview with CNN en Español Valles said:

“My motive for being here is that one can do a lot for the town… we are going to make changes and get rid of a little of the fear in every person. There will always be fear, but what we want to achieve in our municipality is tranquility and security…”

Her focus is on community and she has plans to create neighbourhood watch type programs and push for a unification of the town in order to fight the crime as one. Valles has already employed new staff to assist with her anti-fear and violence campaign and to some controversy, the majority of her team are women. Not only that, but they will generally remain unarmed despite being located in such a volatile area. Valles reasons by saying:

 “The weapons we have are principles and values, which are the best weapons for prevention… Our work will be pure prevention.”

Police chief Valles has accepted a job which some call ‘a death sentence’ and others refer to her as ‘the bravest woman in Mexico’. One can only wish the best for Valles in her position as police chief and if an individual can do a lot for a community, she seems to be a woman for who that will ring true.

It’s inspiring how some people make a conscious choice to go into drug counseling or something similar to be able to help those who are in need.

(Image Credit)

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